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In July, sources told both Bloomberg and The Verge that Roku was testing a Wi-Fi extender called the Roku Relay, though at the time it was unclear whether Roku would move forward with the product.

We’ve now confirmed that Roku has continued testing the Relay as recently as September, thanks to a tip from a reader who was invited to the program last month. Roku itself has also uploaded support documents for its Wi-Fi extender and has published setup apps for both iOS and Android, providing more details on how the product works. The latter app received three Google Play Store reviews in September, and applications for both a wireless range extender and spread spectrum transmitter passed through the FCC in August and September, respectively.

By using a mobile setup process and limiting wireless coverage to Roku devices, the Relay could be more effective than a regular Wi-Fi extender at eliminating streaming problems such as buffering—though only for Roku devices.

“We’re always working on bringing new products and features to Roku users, and part of that process is publicly testing new ideas with a small set of our customers,” Roku spokeswoman Seana Norvell said via email. “Nothing new to announce today.”

How Roku Relay works

With a typical Wi-Fi extender, you’d plug it into a wall outlet around the midpoint between your wireless router and the devices you’re trying to connect. The extender receives a wireless signal from the router, and then repeats that signal to reach devices that are farther away.

The Roku Relay works in a similar way, but only for Roku streaming players and smart TVs. It’s unclear exactly how this will work, but Roku’s support documents describe the Relay as running on “a wireless channel dedicated to Roku streaming.” The company also claims that this separate channel can act like “an ‘express lane’ for audio and video,” thereby freeing up bandwidth for other devices on the existing network.

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While the Roku Relay might work with multiple Roku players and smart TVs in a home, a separate support document mentions the ability to designate a “boosted” device that gets preferential treatment on the network. Users can setup a boosted device through the Roku Relay’s mobile app, but must factory reset the Relay to optimize a different Roku player or TV.

The mobile app will also help with finding the best place to install the Roku Relay. Users will still have to identify a few potential outlet locations on their own, but after doing so, the app will run a speed test and provide guidance on whether the location is working well. Users will also be able to test other setup locations and compare them.



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